President Barack Obama said rising exports are a “bright spot” in the U.S. economic recovery while warning against complacency in the face of trade rivals such as China and Germany.
“We’ve been such a dominant economy for a long time, that our sale pitches and efforts have been a little more scattered” and perhaps not as effective, the president said at the White House during a meeting of his export council. The U.S. has “very aggressive” competitors.
American sales abroad surged 4.4% to a record $2.2 trillion in 2012, Census Bureau figures show.
“One of the biggest bright spots in our economy has been exports,” Obama said. He said the administration is focused on how “do we keep that momentum going,” as negotiators try to reach agreement on two proposed trade deals, one in the Pacific region, the other with the European Union.
The advisory panel, which usually meets twice a year, is headed by Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer James McNerney. The business leaders on the panel, appointed by the president, make recommendations to the government on ways to increase sales and help shape the agenda on proposed trade deals.
Obama signed an executive order in March 2010 setting a goal of doubling exports over five years, or taking exports to $3.14 trillion in value by 2014 from $1.57 trillion in 2009.
He may fall short. Exports last year totaled $2.2 trillion. Each $1 billion in sales supports about 5,000 jobs, Obama said.
Obama has pledged to remove trade barriers abroad, help firms enter new export markets and offer government assistance with financing to meet the export goal.
Even with a global economic slowdown, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said exports increased by $600 billion in the three-year period ended 2012, a level equal to the combined gross domestic product of Israel, New Zealand and Ireland.
“This is a seismic shift in exporting,” she said. There are 30,000 more businesses exporting than there were in 2009, she said, and “we’re on track to break an annual export record for the third consecutive year.”
Even so, growth of U.S. sales abroad slowed to a 2% annual rate in the past 12 months, Jason Furman, chief White House economist, told the council.
“That slowdown is an import reminder that our fortunes in part depend on the economic strength of the world, and we saw significant economic slowdown in 2012,” Furman said. Still, it is “starting to mend.”